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Why America’s Tallest Dam Is Suddenly in Danger

California weather can turn on a dime, but climate change is playing a role, too.
The Oroville Dam spillway releases 100,000 cubic feet of water per second down the main spillway in Oroville, California, on Feb. 13, 2017.

The Oroville Dam spillway releases 100,000 cubic feet of water per second down the main spillway in Oroville, California, on Feb. 13, 2017.

Photographer: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images
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Engineers are racing to lower water levels at Lake Oroville in northern California before storm clouds open up again, adding new strain to the nation’s tallest dam.

When it comes to unthinkable disasters involving dams, one might think of war torn Iraq, where the beleaguered Mosul Dam is in critical condition after years of war and neglect. Suddenly, an infrastructure calamity was possible in America. How did this happen, seemingly all of a sudden?